ERIN, WIS. – As the longest course in U.S. Open history, Erin Hills figured to set up well for long hitters, many of whom are among the game’s highest-ranked players.
Instead, through two rounds, the course has rewarded accuracy more than length off the tee by severely punishing drives into the fescue.
That’s one reason many of the game’s best players struggled Thursday and Friday. Another: Many of them were hardly peaking entering the tournament. Each has dealt with injuries this season.
Since the world ranking began in 1986, never have the top three ranked players missed the cut at a major. Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day made it happen this week.
McIlroy, trying to win his fifth major, finished at 5 over, shooting 78, then 71. He ranked 13th in driving distance but too often hit into trouble. Having dealt with back issues, he hadn’t played enough this season to be sharp enough to handle a major setup.
He has missed three cuts in six U.S. Open starts since winning the championship in 2011. According to Golf Channel, since then he has more rounds of 77 or worse than rounds in the 60s, 3-to-2.
“Showed up for the last six holes, anyway,” McIlroy said after shooting 4 under during that stretch.
Jason Day, who won his major in Wisconsin at Whistling Straits, shot 79-75 to finish at 10 over. The 154 total was his worst 36-hole score in a major and his first missed cut at a major since the 2012 PGA Championship.
“I usually love places like this,” Day said. “The walk was great. The course is beautiful. I just unfortunately didn’t execute. I was in the hay too much.”
Johnson struggled off the tee on Thursday. Friday, he looked like the exemplary ball-striker who won the U.S. Open last year, but he struggled on the greens. He finished at 4 over.
“If you look at the golf course and talk to me, Jason or Rory, this course set up perfect for us,” Johnson said. “As we all know, this game is all about putting.
“I don’t let it bother me. I feel like my golf game is there. Maybe I need to go get glasses.”
The three have combined to win six majors. The top 18 players on the leaderboard entering the weekend have won zero.
“I really like this golf course,” Johnson said. “It really set up well for me, especially if I’m driving it the way I was today. It’s not possible to shoot any higher than I did. I just struggled on the greens.”